Krakow, Poland

Helen Rose Hill Diary April 2005

Photo: Barbakan. As Krakow is completely flat, a walk there should not be in a hill walking diary but I think the readers need a change now and again. I spent some time in Krakow this Spring and it is a delightful little town centre to walk around, being well preserved and compact. I think it is going to be the next hot weekend destination and I am glad I was there before it is packed with tourists. The weather was kind with clear blue skies and sunshine every day in early April although nights were almost freezing. The English is Cracow but most information on the internet on it is accessed by Krakow, the Polish spelling.

I travelled with my friend who is a second generation Pole living in Scotland but who speaks Polish fluently. However, she was disappointed to find that most of the younger Polish people spoke English fluently and tended to answer in English so she quickly gave up speaking Polish. There were times when it was useful to have an interpreter travelling with you especially in the train station where English was not spoken.

We arrived late afternoon and it was simple taking the bus from Krakow airport to the town centre with our hotel close by at Matejki Square. This was a cultural visit and we wanted to see as many interesting buildings and galleries as possible but allowing plenty of time for shopping, eating and drinking and of course watching life go by on the streets and squares. Jan Matejko was a famous Polish seventeenth century painter well respected in Europe at that time and his house on nearby Florianska Street is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. This street is accessed from the Florian Gate, once part of the Royal route from Warsaw to Krakow for the coronation. The gate is near the fifteenth century Barbakan and is one of the remaining elements of the medieval fortifications.

Photo: St Marys Church. At the main market square, there is the Church of Saint Mary with the vaulted ceiling painted a bright blue with golden stars. In the centre of the square is the Cloth Hall filled with interesting shopping stalls filled with traditional Polish craftwork including amber from the Baltic in top quality designer jewellery. It was very relaxing to sit in cafes on the square eating cheesecake and drinking coffee while watching life go by. Krakow is a very stylish place with very good clothes? and shoe shops on Florianska Street. There are lots of shopping opportunities.

The Wawel is a small hill with a complex of buildings including the Royal Castle and the Royal Cathedral and takes most of a day to visit. I found the ?Lost Wawel? Exhibition particularly good. It is basically a museum over excavations with walkways and showing the Wawel over a period of time including an early Romanesque chapel. The Royal Palace has splendid rooms but sadly with little of the original furniture as much of it was plundered during the Second World War.

I am only giving a taste of what there is to see in Krakow but one museum I would like to mention specially is Stanislaw Wyspianski Museum. He was famous for Art Nouveau work and was also a stage designer. This was of particular to interest to me as Glasgow is the home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and there is an opportunity to compare the work of this time in two different countries.

Photo: Market Square. I could go on and on about the delights of Krakow but I am not a guide book so you will have to visit and see for yourself. Getting around is easy and there are trams if you are footsore! Remember, go there soon to beat the crowds before the tourists find it.

Coming attractions; Walks in Wales and Munros, Munros, Munros!

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